MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Security Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70462
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The aim of this module is to introduce students to the complex and contested nature of security in theory and practice. The module is designed to address some of the central problematics in the intellectual content and practical applications of competing notions of ‘security’. The module takes a critical view of the field through an examination of non-traditional approaches to security and a core set of contemporary security challenges. Moreover, it is concerned with interrogating the “subject” of security in the double sense of the term – who is the subject of security and what is security? In particular, the module aims to investigate the extent to which dominant theories of security are fundamentally intertwined with its practice, and perhaps challenge the subjects invoked and exclusions effected in the ‘doing’ of security.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, students should come away with a sense of what is at stake in security both as a theoretical concept and as an ontological category with the aim to critically engage the usefulness of the concept. Students should also come away with a critical understanding of how security has been articulated and challenged in our contemporary context through an engagement with some of the most pressing security issues of our day.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of critical security studies and critical thinking;
  • Outline and discuss how theory relates to practice;
  • Demonstrate the ability to think critically about security and different ways of thinking and practicing security;
  • Articulate your own views on security with recourse to (and sometimes rejection of) the literature covered in the course.

Teaching and learning methods

  • 1 x introductory session
  • 9 x substantive 2hr weekly seminars


Assessment methods

Annotated Bibliography (700-800 words) 20%

Theoretical Evaluation + Self-Assessment (1,000 words + 100 words) 30%

Essay (2,000 words) 50%

Recommended reading

Required Reading:

  • Columba Peoples and Nick Vaughan-Williams, Critical Security Studies: An Introduction, 2nd Edition (London: Routledge, 2015).
  • Laura Shepherd, Critical Approaches to Security Studies: An Introduction to Theories and Methods (London: Routledge 2013).
  • And all readings listed in the weekly schedule, accessible online via the Library.


Highly Recommended Reading

  • Mark B. Salter and Canu E. Mutlu, Research Methods in Critical Security Studies: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2013).


Recommended Reading:

  • Linda Åhäll and Thomas Gregory, eds., Emotions, Politics & War (London: Routledge 2015).
  • Salter, Mark B, ed. Making Things International I: Circuits and Motion (2015) & Making Things International II: Catalysts and Reactions (2016)  (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
  • Kevin McSorley, ed., War and the Body: Militarisation, practice and experience (London: Routledge, 2013).
  • Christine Sylvester, War As Experience (London: Routledge, 2013).
  • Mark Duffield, Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).
  • Annick T. Wibben, Feminist Security Studies: A Narrative Approach (London: Routledge, 2010).
  • Anthony Burke, Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence (London: Routledge, 2007).
  • David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics Of Identity (Manchester University Press, 2nd Edition 1998).
  • Keith Krause & Michael C. Williams, eds., Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases (University of Minnesota Press, 1997).
  • Michael Dillon & Julian Reid, The Liberal Way of War: Killing to Make Life Live (Routledge, 2009).
  • Michael Dillon, The Politics of Security: Towards a Political Philosophy of Continental Thought (Psychology Press, 1996). 
  • Maria Stern, Naming Security – Constructing Identity: ‘Mayan-women’ in Guatemala on the Eve of ‘Peace’ (Manchester University Press, 2005)
  • Jenny Edkins & Nick Vaughan-Williams, eds., Critical Theorists and International Relations (Routledge, 2009).
  •  Shampa Biswas & Sheila Nair, eds., International Relations and States of Exception: Margins, Peripheries, and Excluded Bodies (Routledge, 2010).
  • James A. Tyner, War, Violence and Population: Making the Body Count (The Guilford Pres, 2009).
  • Laura J. Shepherd, Gender, Violence & Security (Zed Books, 2008).
  • Christine Sylvester, War as Experience: Contributions from International Relations and Feminist Analysis (Routledge 2012).
  • Christine Sylvester, ed., Experiencing War (Routledge 2011).
  • Laura Sjoberg, ed., Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives (Routeldge, 2010).
  • Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Power of Mourning and Violence (Verso, 2004).
  • Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (Verso, 2010).
  • Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended (Picador, 1997).
  • Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population (Picador, 2004).
  • Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics (Picador, 2004).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cristina Masters Unit coordinator

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